No Exit Blog

Seminar Response

Section I — The Basics

Title: No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre

Mood:

The mood is tense and frustrating.

List of Characters:

  • Valet: Guide/Demon, leads the dead to their room, their place of eternal punishment
  • Garcin: first occupant of the room, in Hell for the way he treated his wife, believes himself to be a coward, needs Inez’s approval for peace, Estelle wants his attention as a man
  • Estelle: Needs the attention of a man, in Hell for killing her child, and driving her lover to suicide, serves as a lust for Inez
  • Inez: Lusts after Estelle, in Hell for stealing the wife of her cousin, causing him to kill himself, and then for pushing Florence, the wife, over the edge leading her to commit a murder-suicide, killing Inez, and then herself.

Issues:

  1. People both in life and the after-life are the real Hell and the real demons: The author makes the point through Garcin that Hell is “life with-out a break.” The only difference between Hell and life is that, there is an occasional respite from the people in life, and in Hell it is a constant torture one must endure. The outlook is an incredibly bleak one, but by creating and slowly revealing the despicable true character of Inez, Garcin, and Estelle; Clos makes the point that while often society looks at the after-life as a horrid torturous punishment, the real horrors surround us everyday in the form of people.
  2. The inability to accept that when death occurs being forgotten isn’t far behind. Clos reveals this through Inez who breaks to the others that “Nothing of you's left on earth — not even a shadow.” As each person realizes that no one remembers them anymore this means that each other’s perceptions are even more important. Garcin eventually forgotten by his wife and Gomez, must rely on the others to provide him with the acceptance he needs. The harsh reality of this is very existentialist in nature. Each person is but a speck in time and easily forgotten just as the three characters in the play.

Memorable Quote:

“Ah, I see; it’s life with-out a break.”

Section 2: Garcin Analysis

Conflict: Garcin is unable to accept his own actions, and needs someone else to tell him that what he did is not only acceptable, but for them to view him as he wants to be. While he wants to view himself in this positive light, he cannot convince himself that what he did was brave, so he needs the affirmation from another person. He sees Inez as this person and believes he must convince her.

  1. “It’s you who mat-ter; you who hate me. If you’ll have faith in me I’m saved.” (24) If Garcin can convince Inez, someone who hates him that he wasn’t a coward in his life, he himself can be confident in that fact.
  2. “And can one judge a life by a single action?”(24) Garcin’s reflection on the choice he made to desert haunts him because he feel that he has lived a life as a “real man.” (24), but this one decision reflects poorly on that. He questions Inez with this, trying to convince her, and himself that in the end his life wasn’t cowardly.
  3. Resolution: He never convinces Inez, who decides to use this vice as another way to torment him. This plays into her role as one of his torturers for he will never be able to convince her of bravery, and he will eternally struggle with his decision.

Complexity: Garcin struggles more with how he is perceived and how he is able to perceive himself than with the way that he treated his wife. When he explains what he did to her, he seems unfazed, but the difficulty he has with what he views as his cowardice is much greater. This adds a whole new even more despicable layer to Garcin, revealing his apathy for others, and his narcissism.

  1. “No, I couldn’t leave you here, gloating over my defeat, with all those thoughts about me running in your head” (24).
  2. “There she is: the moment I mention her, I see her. It’s Gomez who interests me” (13).
  3. Explanation: The first quote reveals Garcin’s need to be perceived by other people as brave, and ties into his own inability to view himself that way. His escaping his torture became less important to him than gaining the approval of another person. The second quote shows that apathy and narcissism, the author revealed through the play. Garcin becomes angered by the fact that when he mentions her he is forced to see her because he would rather be watching Gomez. The reason he wants to see Gomez is because Gomez is talking about him. Just with this quote Clos reveals how little Garcin seems to care about his wife, and then the incredible importance he places on other peoples perception of him.

Section 3: Setting

Details & Support: Hell, a room in a hotel/apartment complex, has three couches and is sparsely decorated other than a statue and a fire place

  1. “A drawing-room in Second Empire style. A massive ornament stands on the mantelpiece” (1).
  2. “It’s those sofas. They’re so hideous. And just look how they’ve been arranged.” (5)
  3. “Beyond that wall…There’s a passage…And at the end of the passage?…There’s more rooms, more passages, and stairs.” (3)

Commentary

The room is sparsely decorated, so as to ensure the people in the room are unable to distract themselves from each other. Each item in the room however holds its on meaning and/or purpose. The couch serves as the only personal space they will have for eternity, and it is a space that can be instantly violated as it is several times through out the play. On the outside of the room is just more rooms. The unknown quality of these rooms serves as another torture for the three people. Their only hope, escape, is overshadowed by the fear of the unknown.

Section 4: Symbols/Motifs

Symbol: Mirrors.

  1. Detail: “When I can’t see myself I begin to wonder if I really and truly exist.” (10)
  2. Explanation: This quote is in reference to the fact that their mirrors have been taken, and Estelle responds by saying this. The lack of mirror’s symbolizes the importance each person places in other people’s acceptance of them. It accentuates a flaw they already had by ensuring that they must face it endlessly. Estelle’s quote also makes a point in that after an eternity, what keeps someone from forgetting themselves? Without a mirror to remind them, they must rely on the image the other people have of them.

Motif: The Buzzer

  1. Detail: “I’ll make them open it. [He presses the bell-push. The bell does not ring.]” (22)
  2. Explanation: The buzzer appears throughout the play sometimes working, other time not. What the buzzer reconfirms is the futility of their efforts to escape their fate. They have absolutely no choice in the matter, now that they have been placed in Hell. The buzzer is also another more subtle form of torture, in that it appears as if they have a way out, but there really isn’t any escape.

Section 5: Meaning of the Work

Meaning Statement: The meaning of this play is that human reliance on the perception other people have on them is often times their downfall.

  1. Detail: “Do you think that it could be called a sin?” (9) As they tell their stories, and they reveal their past, they try to support their actions, hoping that the people they are with will not judge them for what they’ve done. Their attempt to justify their actions, by convincing the others what they’ve done isn’t really as awful as it seems, is what tortures them. Garcin needs Inez to tell him he isn’t a coward, and Estelle needs Garcin’s attention, so she can feel as if she is important. As this is unachievable, the need for this acceptance, will torture them.
  2. Detail: “Don’t be so unreasonable, darling. I can’t put myself in your skin.” (21) Throughout the play, especially in the case of Garcin, he tries to have the other two understand where his actions have come from. As they are unable to relate, and in their eyes his actions are just the actions of a coward, his need for them to perceive them can never be resolved. Not one of the group can truly step into the skin of the other and understand one another.
  3. Detail: “It’s you who mat-ter; you who hate me. If you’ll have faith in me I’m saved.” (24) Fundamentally, what this work reveals is that the perception a person has of themselves when less important to them than the perception someone else has of them will torment them. This is due to the fact that no one can truly perceive someone as perfectly as they want.